Education is widely held to be a key determinant of fertility and infant health. From a theoretical perspective, several causal channels have been emphasized. First, education raises a woman’s permanent income through earnings, tilting her optimal fertility choices toward fewer offspring of higher quality (Becker 1960, Mincer 1963, Becker and Lewis 1973, Willis 1973). Second, under positive assortative mating, a woman’s education is causally connected to her mate’s education (Behrman and Rosenzweig 2002), so that the effect of education on household permanent income is augmented through a multiplier effect.
Third, education may improve an individual’s knowledge of, and ability to process information regarding, fertility options and healthy pregnancy behaviors (Grossman 1972). On the empirical side, an extensive literature documents associations between education and fertility and infant health (Strauss and Thomas 1995). However, whether these associations represent causal relationships has been the subject of debate. Early quasi-experimental infant health research using differences in education between sisters who become mothers points toward more muted effects than the cross-sectional relationship, suggesting an important role for selection (Wolfe and Behrman 1987).
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